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Elizabeth Maguire, at 47; published nonfiction books

NEW YORK -- Elizabeth Maguire, a publisher of wit and passion who in a 25-year career worked with historians, theologians, and other nonfiction authors, died Saturday of ovarian cancer, the Perseus Books Group said yesterday. She was 47.

Since 2002, Ms. Maguire had served as publisher of Basic Books, an imprint of Perseus.

''Liz Maguire made a lasting contribution to our publishing program because she possessed an extraordinary combination of editorial skill, business acumen, and commitment to books of quality," David Steinberger, president and chief executive of Perseus said in a statement.

''She could make an ordinary editorial meeting into a standup comedy act," said Jo Ann Miller, vice president and editorial director of Basic Books.

Ms. Maguire's many writers included historian Richard Brookhiser, theologian George Weigel, historian and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University, and cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson, who in a statement praised her as a ''world-class thinker and my mind's most faithful companion.

''She nurtured in me and so many other writers a hunger for conceptual rigor, literary beauty, and moral clarity," said Dyson, author of ''Holler If You Hear Me."

Michael Novak, a former US ambassador whose books include ''Tell Me Why" and ''Business as a Calling," said in a statement: ''Even when she disagreed with you -- perhaps strongly disagreed with you -- she could feel her way into your point of view and help you make your argument stronger and clearer."

Born in New York City, Ms. Maguire majored in English at Harvard University, graduating magna cum laude in 1980.

For six years, she was executive editor of Oxford University Press, where she edited Joan D. Hedrick's Pulitzer Prize-winning ''Harriet Beecher Stowe."

Ms. Maguire also worked at Cambridge University Press, Addison Wesley Longman, and the Free Press, before joining Basic Books in 2000.

Ms. Maguire wrote the novel ''Thinner, Blonder, Whiter," published by Carroll & Graf in 2002.

She had recently been working on a novel about the 19th-century author Constance Fenimore Woolson.

Ms. Maguire leaves her partner, Karen Wolny; her parents; three siblings; and seven nieces and nephews.

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